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Syria's Nusra Front backs Paris attacks,

despite opposition to Islamic State


Main Syrian rebel groups have condemned the Paris attacks but Qaeda's affiliate has expressed
support

Nusra fighters carry a banner reading: "we fight in Syria ... and our eyes are on Jerusalem" (AFP)

Alex MacDonald-Monday 16 November 2015


The Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, have broken with other Syrian
opposition groups to express support for Friday's deadly attacks in Paris, despite
the group's official hostility to the Islamic State (IS).
"We are happy if a deviant sect successfully executes an operation against the
Kufaar (infidels)" read a statement released by the group over the weekend,

adding it would have prefered that Nusra had carried out such an attack.
"Scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah have explained this topic: we choose the most guided
from two sides."
Another Nusra spokesperson also praised the earlier attacks in Beirut, while
cautioning against support for IS.
"I am still saying that ISIS are a riding mount of the tyrants and that they are the
dogs of hellfire," wrote a spokesperson, Sheikh Abu Mariyah Al-Qahtani on
Monday, using an alternative acronym for IS.
"And that they are the ones who ruined the Jihad in Iraq and Syria. And that they
kill the Sunnis. But I was happy with their strikes against Hizbu Shaytaan," he said,
referencing Hezbollah, members of whom were based in the Beirut district, with
the Arabic word for Satan.
The remarks have contrasted sharply with statements by other major rebel
groups fighting in Syria, Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam, who both condemned
the attacks on Friday, which claimed as many as 132 lives.
"The only possible reaction to the despicable acts of terror in Paris is total and
unequivocal condemnation," wrote Labib Alnahhas, foreign affairs spokesperson
for Ahrar al-Sham.
Meanwhile, Jaish al-Islam condemn the attacks "in the strongest possible terms."
Both Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham have fought alongside Nusra in Syria, the
latter as part of the powerful Jaish al-Fatah coalition which took over the northern
Idlib province in July.
Ahmed Shaheed, a fighter with al-Nusra Front - al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria - told
Middle East Eye that the attacks in Paris were to be expected following France's
bombing of Islamic State in Syria.
What you saw in Paris is a retaliation," he wrote in a message to MEE. So dont
cry about it. If a country chooses to bomb someone expect to get a retaliation.
Simple.
Shaheed, who is originally Australian, is believed to be based in Aleppo, though
this has not been independently verified.
Despite Nusra's longstanding rivalry with Islamic State (IS), Shaheed said they
would stand with them against "tyrants".

Listen, IS fought a 10-year guerrilla war with a full American invasion and still
remained a resistance, no matter how much you bomb or how much you try,
whether IS are weak or strong, they will always be a threat if the West doesnt stop
its aggression," he wrote.
Now you have two groups competing with each other at who can do most
damage to the West. Haha."
Al-Qaeda have traditionally been seen as more willing to attack targets in the West
than IS, who have primarily concerned themselves with building a power base in
Iraq and Syria.
January's attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris was carried out by
militants with links to the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
In response to a question about possible similar attacks by Nusra on the West,
Shaheed said he was just a "simple soldier".
I dont know what Nusra has planned - I know one thing, though. If the West
keeps supporting dictators against the Muslims and keeps bombing them then
expect the same if not worse," he told MEE.
However, he said that it was a "good thing" that such attacks by IS were
overshadowing Nusra's activities, as it prevented the media from publishing
"biased narratives" about the group.
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/liveblog-paris-attacks49799540#sthash...
Ahmed Shaheed, a Nusra fighter, told Middle East Eye that the attacks in Paris
were to be expected following France's bombing of IS in Syria.
What you saw in Paris is a retaliation," he told MEE, via mobile messaging
application. So dont cry about it. If a country chooses to bomb someone expect
to get a retaliation. Simple.
Shaheed, who is originally Australian, is believed to be based in Aleppo, though
this has not been independently verified.
Despite Nusra's longstanding rivalry with IS, Shaheed said they would stand with
them against "tyrants".
Listen, IS fought a 10-year guerrilla war with a full American invasion [in Iraq] and
still remained a resistance, no matter how much you bomb or how much you try,
whether IS is weak or strong, they will always be a threat if the West doesnt stop

its aggression," he wrote.


Now you have two groups competing with each other who can do most damage
to the West. Haha."
'Expect the same if not worse'
Al-Qaeda has traditionally been seen as more willing to attack targets in the West
than IS, who have primarily concerned themselves with building a power base in
Iraq and Syria.
January's attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris was carried out by
militants with reported links to the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula.
In response to a question about possible similar attacks by Nusra on the West,
Shaheed said he was just a "simple soldier".
I dont know what Nusra has planned - I know one thing, though. If the West
keeps supporting dictators against the Muslims and keeps bombing them then
expect the same if not worse," he told MEE.
The apparent divergence between Nusra and other groups has become more
stark as Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam have apparently taken steps to moderate
their image and extend an olive-branch to Western audiences who had previously
feared that their ideologies - which have been labelled "Salafi Jihadism" in the
same bracket as Nusra - made them unpalatable allies.
In 2013, Zahran Alloush, the charismatic leader of Jaish al-Islam, spoke of his
desire to wash the filth of the Rafida and Rafidism from Syria, using derogatory
references to Shia and Alawites.
In another speech in January 2014, he also stated that Jaish al-Islam denounce
democracy completely.
However, in a May 2015 interview with the US-based McClatchy newspaper, he
appeared to have significantly changed his tune, claiming that he only wanted to
establish a state free of sectarian discrimination against Syrias Sunnis.
We want to establish a state in which our rights are fulfilled, he said. After that,
the people should choose the sort of state they want.
Perhaps even more significantly, he stated that the Alawites were part of the
Syrian people and that only those who had blood on their hands should face
punishment.

As for coexistence with minorities, this has been the situation in Syria for
hundreds of years, he told the newspaper.
We are not seeking to impose our power on minorities or to practice oppression against them.

'A mainstream Sunni Islamic group'


The position of Ahrar al-Sham as potentially the most significant rebel force in
Syria has meant that their overtures to the West have been watched by analysts
with intense interest.
Ahrar al-Sham went so far as to print an editorial in the Washington Post in which
they criticised the broad categorisation of the Syrian opposition groups as
moderate or extremist.
We consider ourselves a mainstream Sunni Islamic group that is led by Syrians
and fights for Syrians, wrote Nahhas.
We are fighting for justice for the Syrian people. Yet we have been falsely accused
of having organizational links to al-Qaeda and of espousing al-Qaedas ideology.
Despite name checking Al-Qaeda, however, no mention was made of Nusra
specifically, and the groups have continued to fight side by side despite reports of
strains in the relationship.
For now, there appears to be a mutual agreement on for both groups to set asides
ideological divisions.
We dont agree with their (Ahrar al-Sham's) project at all, said Ahmed Shaheed.
Because they fooled themselves into believing they can achieve their goals by
being diplomatic with the kuffar [non-believers], while we believe that we have to
subdue the kuffar before any political processes can start.
He acknowledged, however, that ideological differences would be set aside for the
time being.
As long as we have a common enemy the fight between us will be delayed, he
said, but added that their divergent goals would eventually butt heads.
Posted by Thavam